Capsule enteroscopy is a fairly recently developed
technique in which the small intestine is imaged. The
small intestine begins just past the stomach and ends in
the colon or large bowel. Its length varies but can be
as long as nine feet. Prior to this procedure, camera
images of the entire small bowel were possible only
during surgical operations. This technique is
non-invasive and is done as an outpatient. It employs a
pill-sized disposable camera which is swallowed by the
patient. A special vest is worn by the patient for about
eight hours, during which he or she is free to walk
about outside of the medical facility. The vest is
actually a receiving device which records video pictures
taken by the capsule camera. At the conclusion of the
study, the patient returns the vest and the images are
transferred to a computer. A gastroenterologist then
views the images on the computer screen.
Gastroenterologists are best suited to view and
interpret these images because they have extensive
training and experience with diseases of the small
bowel. The capsule passes easily through the GI tract
and is flushed away.
Capsule enteroscopy allows
the gastroenterologist to accurately view the entire
small intestine to help diagnose problems in this area.
Diseases which can arise in the small intestine include
Crohn’s disease, tumors and bleeding sites. This test is
commonly used when a patient has anemia of unknown cause
and subtle bleeding is suspected in the small bowel.
This test does not examine the colon or large bowel and
is not a substitute for colonoscopy. Preparation for
this test does include cleansing the bowel the night
before. This procedure only provides images of the small
bowel and therefore does not allow biopsies to be taken
or endoscopic therapy to be provided.